Sex among squashes requires busy bees, lately in short supply

Garden Q&A

July 14, 1996

My young squash are turning yellow and falling off before they mature. What can I do?

This might be the result of the low bee activity we've been experiencing recently.

Members of the squash family require pollination from bees. Young fruits that are not pollinated may turn yellow or become malformed before dropping off prematurely. Low bee activity has become an alarming trend across the state recently because of two mite parasites infecting both domestic and wild beehives.

Gardeners can transfer the pollen from male squash flowers to female flowers (which have a swelling at their base) with a small artist's paint brush or by rubbing the male flower over the female flower.

Another problem that causes squash fruits to abort or rot is a disease that infects the shriveled blossom. To prevent this, knock off the spent blossoms from the end of the squash before infection can start.

My lawn has a lot of moss and algae growing in it. What can I do to stop this?

Algae and moss growth is often the result of wet conditions or poor drainage. While too much shade can cause high moisture, DTC moss can grow even in full sun if the soil is poorly drained.

Other factors that favor moss and algae growth are acidic soils, poorly aerated soils that prevent root growth and thin turf with bare spots.

Moss and algae will not compete with healthy dense turf, so clear up any problems that might be preventing proper grass growth. The first step is a soil test, which may be obtained from the Home and Garden Information Center (for number, see below). Soil-test results will allow you to determine if you have any nutrient and acidic soil problems.

Second, check for drainage problems and alleviate, either by core aeration or by changing drainage patterns. A third stepmight be to prune tree limbs to allow better sunlight penetration and better drying.

My old oak tree is oozing a smelly liquid from a crack in the bark. What can I do about it?

Your tree has slime flux. Bacterial and fungal organisms that are normally growing on the bark sometimes enter the tree when there's a wound or break in the bark. They can multiply, causing fermention of tree-sap sugars. This releases carbon dioxide and causes pressure under the tree bark, forcing a smelly, sometimes foamy liquid from the opening. Usually, as the tree heals the wound, the oozing stops, though it may take years.

This condition will not kill the tree, but the bark may die in the immediate area of the sap flow. If the problem is severe, you may consider contracting with a certified arborist to drain the slime flux away from the area by inserting a plastic tube to allow the fluid to drip onto the ground.

Garden tips are provided by the Home and Garden Information Center of the Cooperative Extension Service of the University of Maryland. For additional information on these or other gardening questions, call the center's toll-free hot line at (800) 342-2507 and talk with a horticultural consultant or listen to tapes covering the most common garden problems.

Checklist

Fertilize water lilies and other aquatic plants to promote continued growth and flowering. Sharpen your mower blade. Plant second crops of beans, squash and cucumbers for later summer harvest.

Pub Date: 7/14/96

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